Railfanning: ‘You’re going to do what?’

ATLANTA — I was going to start my treatise on railfanning with a whimsical anecdote, but they all pretty much sound the same.

Case in point: I was driving down [insert road name here] when I caught a glimpse of [insert train description here]. I pulled out my camera and high-tailed — make that drove judiciously and within all traffic laws — it to a suitable vantage point and let the shutter rip.

I am what you would call a railfan. I go railfanning. Most people offer up a confused look when I mention this. “You’re a what?” I am often asked. “You’re going to do what?”

I’d say look it up in a dictionary, but that doesn’t offer much resolve. “Did you mean tailfin?” is the message I received when I went to Dictionary.com. When all else fails, I turn to Wikipedia, which defines a railfan as “a person interested in a recreational capacity in rail transport.”

I suppose there is no need for a formal definition of the term railfanning. After all, any hobby is what the individual makes of it. I simply enjoy trains — watching them, riding them or learning about their history.

I’ve been asked a number of times how many railfans are there in the country. I have no idea. But, CNN once reported “Trains Magazine, an industry publication, estimates that there are 175,000 U.S. railfans, mostly male baby boomers.”

It’s good to know I’m not alone.

Todd DeFeo
About Todd DeFeo 235 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and The Travel Trolley.